Meet the Past: what would you ask Harry S. Truman?

 Harry S. Truman

Click on "Add a new comment" to pose a question to Harry S. Truman, the “Man from Independence” who became the 33rd president of the United States. If your question is chosen, Library Director Crosby Kemper III will ask it on your behalf.

Harry Truman

If I had the chance I would ask President Truman, who was the best and worst poker player that he played against when he played poker in downtown Kansas City. This was at the Muelbach hotel. FYI, the Kansas City club has the original poker table that President Truman played at.

The Decision to Drop the Atom Bomb

I understand that publicly, the overriding factor in deciding to drop the Atomic Bomb on Japenese soil was premised on the position that it would save thousands of American's lives, by bringing a prompt and immediate stop to the war. But could you please discuss how much consideration was given to Russia's looming entry into the war in the Pacific Theater, any concerns over limiting the Soviet's ability to secure territories in the Pacific, and a desire to send a message to the Soviets that we had something they did not, in order to keep them in their place?

If I may, a follow - up question . . . Sitting here (understanding you are only able to project over your lifetime) twenty years later, how do you reconcile your conscience with the fact that the United States, a nation that prides itself upon being the world's moral compass with regard to personal freedoms, civil liberties and social justice, remains the only nation that has used an atomic weapon to take human life?

Friendship with Churchill

As different as your backgrounds were, you and Winston Churchill were great friends. What personal qualities of his did you find most appealing and in what areas outside the political arena did you relate most?

Vindicated by history?

Your presidency was during tumultuous times for the country and you had to make some of the most momentous decisions of the 20th century--use of atomic weapons, supporting the partition of Palestine to establish Israel, the formation of NATO, the UN, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift. With the special glimpse of the world as it has turned out afforded you by your "special appearance" here in 2009 tonight, if you could revisit any of those decisions, which would you change to perhaps chart a different course for our country and the world?

Character

It has been noted that, like Lincoln, you failed miserably at a number of ventures before finally succeeding in attaining elected office with the help of the powerful Pendergast machine. You went on to distinguish yourself with efforts to end corrupt practices in government offices like the war department. It's ironic that after you ascended into in the national arena, you demonstrated loyalty to some former associates who had become political liabilities, like Pendergast and Harry Vaughn. To what do you attribute that bulldog-like tenacity of yours to persist in the face of defeat and how you would say your moral compass in life was set?

Regrets

What is your biggest regret from your presidency?

Diplomacy

You're noted for being outspoken. Given that you weren't one to suffer fools gladly nor mince words, it's amazing you were able to conceal your personal disdain of Stalin and other political entities that you had to interact with so that you could conduct the business of state. Would you say living with your mother-in-law in her house throughout your married life gave your the opportunity to practice the art of compromise and develop the diplomatic skills you would later need as leader of the free world?

Question for Harry the Dad

Understand your being upset with the criticism of your daughters musical talent. Thinking back on it, do you think that it was presenting or representing the best picture of the office of the most powerful person of the United States and the world.

I'm wondering...

What was it like to see Europe at the end of the war?